Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Inauguration Day is also a time for new beginnings, a chance to learn from the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past as we re-engage in some vitally important debates about our future. Too often over the past four years, political considerations have trumped the need to put our country on a sound financial footing and a path to prosperity. . . . And we should start with spending and debt; because if we don’t get a handle on that, nothing else matters. If we don’t work together to strengthen our entitlement programs, they will go bankrupt. . . . And if we don’t work together to control the debt, then the cost of our interest payments alone will eventually crowd out funding for things we all agree on — from defense, to infrastructure and assistance for those who need it most. In short, the debate we’re now engaged in over the growing federal debt is about much more than numbers on a page. It’s about the cost of inaction in terms of promises broken, jobs lost, and dreams deferred. And that’s why there’s simply no more time to waste.”
Unfortunately, in his Inaugural Address, President Obama said little to nothing about the way forward in reining in this country’s excessive spending and debt and reforming entitlement programs. The AP noted, “In keeping with the objective of inaugural addresses, Obama chose to draw attention to the aspirations he hopes will define him rather than the conflicts that have characterized his relations with a divided Congress. He conceded that ‘outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time,’ but forged ahead with a call for training more math and science teachers, for building roads and even for funding more research labs. If there was a way to reconcile such spending with demands to stabilize the nation’s debt, he didn’t mention it.”
And in a story titled, “President Obama dodges ‘hard choices’ on entitlements,” Politico writes, “President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make ‘hard decisions’ to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the ‘hard choices’ he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He’s not willing to give up much. . . . His inaugural address promised an ambitious progressive agenda — and laid bare Obama’s deeply conflicted relationship with entitlement reform. . . . The president has never precisely defined what hard choices he would be willing to make on Medicare and Social Security. It’s not even clear what he would do if he had the power to remake the programs on his own, without worrying about opposition from Republicans or Democrats.
“And though Obama has talked about shared sacrifice from both parties, he has not gotten to the point in deficit negotiations at which he’s had to pressure rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers to cross their red line on the sacred issues . . . . Unless Obama seizes the opportunity in the next few months, entitlement reform will hang over his second term, lurking like a legacy-killer if he hands off the task to the next president, deficit hawks warn. ‘Either you get a handle on health care and Social Security solvency or he will have a failed presidency,’ said Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s fiscal commission and a former Republican senator from Wyoming. ‘It is that simple. I don’t think he ran for reelection to have a failed presidency.’”
As Leader McConnell said, “Over the past four years, while the President focused on re-election and too many Senate Democrats focused on avoiding tough decisions, the debt grew by more than six trillion dollars. We saw the President blast House Republicans for doing their job and passing a budget while Senate Democrats didn’t even propose one. And rather than work with us to save existing entitlements, we saw the President team up with Democrats in Congress to force through a brand new entitlement that will make it even harder to cover the cost of programs that we already have. In short, Democrats have put off all the hard stuff until now. And our problems have only gotten worse. But that was the first term. . . . We can do better. I know my constituents expect better than what they’ve been getting from Congress in recent years. So should we.”